A short list of five to 15 leading Americans soon will be notified that the presumptive Republican nominee for president believes they are serious contenders to be his running mate. They will be asked for their agreement to join him on the GOP ticket if chosen, and in the meantime, to submit to a most intrusive and far-reaching vetting by lawyers and advisers working for the campaign. No other candidate, not even the presidential nominee himself, is subjected to the same scrutiny.
I have been a lawyer on both sides of the Republican vice-presidential vetting process. I helped potential nominees navigate the vetting gauntlet in four elections, starting in 1976, and I had the honor of doing the vetting on behalf of John McCain’s 2008 campaign. For those of you who’ve managed to steer clear of the revisionist HBO movie about that campaign, I led the team that vetted Sarah Palin, apparently the five most newsworthy days of my life.
For the “vettees,” the process can appear ad hoc, opaque and at times capricious. Having enjoyed illustrious careers in government, they find the unfettered power of the presidential nominee to select his running mate, based on whatever unannounced criteria he deems relevant, as well as the ever more complex vetting process, to be without precedent in their political experience.